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Gig in a Gallery: Melissa James + Kaz Simmons

| Art, Culture, Music | 29/07/2013

Kaz Simmons performing live at the Café Gallery, Bethnal Green. Photo by Mike Watts.

2013 Series

Café Gallery, Bethnal Green

‘Gig in a Gallery’ is a live music event with heart and soul. A tonic on a school night, it makes for a terrific evening at the scrumptious Café Gallery in Bethnal Green – and the menu is mouth-wateringly tempting! As often goes with smaller gigs, the sound-checks and warm-ups accommodated the 7pm start. But this unhurried event proved an excellent opportunity to kick-off those working shoes and fully relax. The first of a series, it featured the talented and personable folk chanteuse Kaz Simmons supporting a fresh yet accomplished set by a radiant Melissa James. Ensure not to miss Malory Torr on August 14th performing at Canvas in Wimbledon Village High Street. Kevin Leo will follow on September 12 at the House Gallery in Camberwell Church Street. And by no means least, Tom Robinson headlines the Queen of Hoxton on October 30th.

Kaz Simmons enjoys a natural rapport with the audience between an excellent choice of numbers. She proffers wistful and poetic songs ideally matched to this delightful venue. The performance area constitutes a conservatory looking onto a rare patch of urban greenery. This combined with Kaz’s pure, almost childlike, vocalisations and you are transported from the grimy metropolis. Some of the songs offer further reflections on city life. ‘For the Love of the Big L’ as Simmons comments is “about my love-hate relationship with London. I love living here but it can be hard work… but there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.” She even takes us all the way to Brazil with an immediately engaging cover of ‘Teco Teco’. Simmon’s self-penned songs are instantly appealing, drawing-in more late-comers – as does the inspirational Melissa James during the second half. Simmons’ album ‘Dandelions’ contains the dainty opening piece ‘Nice Life’, “one of the first songs I ever wrote…” connecting shared hopes and dreams “after speaking to an elderly lady after I had performed…” It swings along gently, her dreamy vocals intertwining with jangling guitar riffs.

Melissa James with Rowland Sutherland. Photo by Mike Watts.

‘Gig in a Gallery’ was set-up by the bluesy-rootsy singer Melissa James (check out her ‘What’s On London’ interview). Melissa heads the bill at each event, backed by an equally talented band of musicians. At the Café Gallery these included co-writer Ross Lorraine’s soothing electric piano, Giorgos Paphitis’ guitar artistry and Rowland Sutherland’s soaring flute improvisations. This intimate venue serves to showcase Melissa’s talents at their magical best. It is the perfect setting for new material such as the stunning ‘The Unexplained’. The penultimate number of an astonishing eleven-strong set it delves into frequent a cappella phases, in contemplation of finding that special someone who returns us to ourselves. With her warm and sensitive vocal dexterity, Ms James is fast establishing herself as a highly respected performer on the Capital’s serious music scene. Her stunning début album, aptly entitled ‘Day Dawns’, ensures an inevitable addiction – and received a lion’s share of richly deserved praise.

Don’t forget this is a ‘Gig in a Gallery’. For a suggested donation of £5 on the door (you can also book online) you get an art exhibition thrown-in too. Currently showing at the Café Gallery are quirky yet delicate illustrations by Laura New. These oddball sketches of wildlife – mainly birds – are scribed over love-letters and, appropriately enough, music-scores. The tenderness of the artworks seems to match that of the musical offerings. The entire door-price goes directly to an immensely worthwhile cause, ‘Small Steps’. The charity was founded by journalist Amy Hanson and dedicated to “improving conditions for children who are living and working on rubbish dumps around the world…” A fiver is enough to buy two pairs of boots for young people having to cope in appalling circumstances. ‘Small Steps’ supports families in numerous ways such as providing hygiene-kits and emergency aid. So take a ‘small step’ yourself and enjoy the next of these excellent gigs at a range of intriguing gallery spaces across London.

2013 Gigs:

August 14, 7pm: Malory Torr @ Canvas

38a High Street SW19 5BY

September 12, 7pm: Kevin Leo @ House Gallery

70 Camberwell Church Street SE5 8QZ

October 30, 7pm: Tom Robinson @ The Queen of Hoxton

1 Curtain Road EC2A 3JX

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